Infratil director Auckland is this week due to sign a contract for an electronic public transport ticket system, a week after the launch of a rival system advertised as free to taxpayers.

The Auckland Regional Transport Authority is poised to agree the system with the French electronic firm Thales, which will allow passengers to transfer between buses, trains or ferries using a single smartcard.

Although the authority has received funding approval from the Government for the new system, to be turned ultimately into a national facility, it is not disclosing costs before closing the deal.

That is despite last week's announcement by Infratil subsidiary Snapper Services that it will extend its own electronic card by March at no cost to taxpayers to the 70 per cent of Auckland buses run by its sister company NZ Bus.

The Transport Agency last year approved in principle subsidies of $48 million for capital costs and $3.9 million for each of 10 years of operations for an Auckland-only scheme.

Regional ratepayers would have been left to pay $32 million upfront and annual operating costs of $2.6 million.

But agency chief executive Geoff Dangerfield indicated last month, when announcing a national scheme, that the deal would work out cheaper for Aucklanders as his organisation would pay for a central processing system.

Snapper chief executive Miki Szikszai, whose card is now used only on Wellington buses and at some retail outlets but which is based on a multi-modal Korean system and will soon be extended to taxis, says he would have no difficulties feeding it into "back-office" facilities supplied by Thales.

But his chairman, Infratil director Paul Ridley-Smith, appeared to contradict that position in questioning the need for the Auckland authority to establish a separate electronic transaction clearing house to Snapper's.

"No, no, we're not going to plug into Thales," he told the Herald. "We have a perfectly functional, 100 per cent effective, totally competent integrated ticketing system so why would you build another one?"

A leaked report by Mr Ridley-Smith to his board in August outlined a strategy for Snapper to sign up transport operators in Auckland before presenting a fait accompli to the Transport Agency.

That was aimed at "removing the need for NZTA funding and thus denying ARTA the ability to contract with Thales."

Mr Ridley-Smith's report added that Snapper knew Transport Minister Steven Joyce and Finance Minister Bill English were "sceptical of the need for the Government to fund ARTA and very wary of the IT implementation risk".

Although Mr Szikszai says Snapper has signed up another Auckland transport operator - which it will not yet identify - and is negotiating with two more, it appears to have missed the bus in its latest effort to scuttle the Thales deal.

Ritchies Transport and Souter Holdings, owner of the Howick and Eastern bus company and ferry operator Fullers, say they have yet to make any integrated ticketing decisions and neither is Birkenhead Transport understood to be involved with Snapper.

A previous bid to thwart Thales, in which Snapper complained to Mr Joyce that the ticketing procurement process was flawed and Auckland authority officials biased, delayed the project by four months before a Transport Agency investigation found nothing untoward.

Transport Agency spokesman Andy Knackstedt would not comment on Mr Ridley-Smith's leaked strategy, saying only that his organisation was happy to work with Snapper and others towards "delivering the national integrated ticketing system to improve public transport".